It’s All Your Fault
Hello there, how are we all today? I’ve been a little busy of late hence the radio silence. Anyway, here I am. I felt like writing after a feeling of cheek-puffing and lip-spluttering incredulous anger. “But Miss Laura C,” I hear you say, “You’re *always* incredulous and angry.” First of all shut up, no I’m not. I just have a healthy and reactive outrage reflex. Secondly, get a load of this thundering buttock name of Malcolm Bowden.
I missed the original broadcast from a few weeks ago but picked up some rumblings about it from disgruntled and amused blogs. It was shown as part of 4Thought ’Depression Week’ strand and highlighted religious responses to mental health issues. If you don’t know what 4Thought is, it’s a regular 2 minute slot shown in between main programmes on Channel 4 (or just ’4′ as we’re supposed to call it now) in the UK. Malcolm Bowden, a dapper and silver-haired self-proclaimed committed evangelical Christian, strolls onto the minimalist set and explains that far from all medical evidence, depression is in fact ‘very deliberately’ chosen by the sufferer. OK…
Malcolm is apparently something of a counsellor and gives patients with mental health problems ‘true Biblical’ help. I haven’t been able to find any medical training in his background but that isn’t always necessary. After all, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to help people, no matter what your religious views. I’ve known Christians for example who have trained as counsellors in part out of an urge of compassion and a desire to help. They may want to suggest prayer as an aid to alleviate suffering but then that is to be expected given their faith. What makes Bowden different to anyone I’ve encountered personally however is the distinctly un-Christian way in which he goes about it. Do watch it HERE.
Depression is, according to Bowden, chosen by those who are full of pride, self-centredness and self-pity. True Christians though will never be depressed. Apparently because the Bible is full of soothing messages to those in pain (which to be fair it is) then someone who accepts it as the word of God cannot become depressed. A true Christian lives his life for others and knows that at the end of his life he will be rewarded in heaven. To be depressed is to turn you back on God. Depressed people are too haughty and prideful to come humbly to God and accept him into their hearts. That is the root cause of their behaviour.
Leaving aside for a moment the breathtaking lack of compassion that I always assumed to be a Christian virtue, let’s turn our attention to the woeful ignorance of all the medical information that is freely available on depression. Depression is an illness of the brain. We often forget that our minds are physical because of the perceived brain-body gap and this is why people often fill it in with a non-spatial soul. However, the brain is made of matter just like arms, legs, belly buttons, nipples and cellulite are. The body is complex and delicate, and sometimes it goes wrong. When the heart goes wrong we call it a heart attack. When ears go wrong we call it deafness. When the brain goes wrong (and considering that there are roughly 100 billion neurons in the brain, there’s quite a chance that it might) we call it mental illness, and sometimes that illness is depression. Sometimes this is caused by shock or trauma and sometimes the brain just fucks up the chemicals of its own accord. Machines do that, as anyone who’s ever tried to use a piece of technology will attest. Curing said imbalance can be done in a number of ways, from happy pills to CBT to diet and exercise. Anything to kickstart a rewiring of the brain. Because, y’know, depression is an illness an’ all. I’m not in any way saying that for some a belief in God isn’t a help. Who am I to say what works for everyone? That said, this apparent ‘get over yourself’ approach is SO medically ridiculous as to warrant a sharp boot up the bum.
You can almost see why Malcolm Bowden has this view on depression given that quietly many people would probably agree with him. To those who have never experienced it, depression does sound like so much whining and complaining. I remember when Owen Wilson tried to kill himself a few years ago. Whilst there was an outpouring of surprise and love being sent his way, there was also a proportion of snide remarks along the lines of ‘what have you got to be so unhappy about, spoilt Hollywood brat blah blah blah’. Rest assured, if YOU’VE never experienced it and can only see the outwards signs of prosperity, you don’t have any idea of the grinding dull monotony and ache of depression. It’s more than just feeling a bit put out every now and again or being a bit touchy, it’s an almost physical blackness that seems to seep out of you and cover everything you can see. For many (I would say most but I’m not a shrink so what do I know?) sufferers, depression leads to an overwhelming and crushing sense of guilt and shame, not pride. Very often, people with depression know full well that to admit to others that they are hurting will only lead to them being treated either with contempt or misplaced kid gloves so they hide it, sometimes until it is too late. One can only assume that if Owen Wilson tried to top himself, he was feeling pretty damn shit.
However, other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia seem to be treated with a much greater respect than depression. Lots of stigma still, but most would at least recognise it as a genuine illness. Perhaps it’s down to the mystery (depressives usually get more of a ‘pull yourself together, we all feel down sometimes’ thing), perhaps it’s the wrongly perceived fireworks and action surrounding it, but most people probably wouldn’t say that schizophrenia is chosen. After a bit of research however, I’ve discovered that that’s exactly what Saviour amongst Shrinks Malcolm Bowden claims. Disregarding all the evidence that says otherwise, Bowden says that schizophrenia is a learned behaviour rooted in a life not filled with God. Way to stigmatize, Malc.
Mental illness already causes enough grief in this world without people like this man making it worse. Why 4Thought ever considered allowing themselves to be used as a platform for a man to talk on medical issues when I wouldn’t trust him to apply hydrocortisone to either his arse or his elbow is beyond me.